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New tradition lights up Convocation ceremony

  • audience with phones lit in Fieldhouse
  • President Mantella at podium
  • faculty in regalia waving to students
  • Provost Maria Cimitile addresses the audience.
  • woman singing
  • Michigan Rep. Kyra Bolden talks about her Grand Valley experience, representing 121,000 alumni.
  • Eric-John Szczepaniak, Student Senate president

Posted on August 23, 2019

In her first Convocation address, President Philomena V. Mantella led the audience of first-year students, faculty and staff members, and guests through a new tradition she said symbolizes a commitment to individual success and a connection to the campus community.

Representatives from four campus segments (faculty, current students, alumni and new students) took turns at a table lighting the letters in GVSU throughout the August 23 ceremony in the Fieldhouse Arena. Mantella asked first-year student Cassandra Tank to light the last letter completing the university seal, then asked audience members to use their phones to "illustrate the true power of our collective Laker Effect." (Video highlights)

Mantella asked students to be intentional with reflection and consider a series of questions many times throughout their academic career; these questions focused on personal impact, empowerment and intellectual curiosity.

"The liberal tradition at Grand Valley provides the perfect opportunity for you to wonder and wander," Mantella said. "Be curious. Grow in breadth and depth, grow in wisdom. Look for every opportunity to expand your mind, enrich your experiences and push yourself beyond your comfort zones." 

Provost Maria Cimitile welcomed students and introduced the faculty seated in the audience, telling students they will act as guides in and out of the classroom, sharing their research and scholarship. She also introduced Making Waves About Water, a two-year campuswide, interdisciplinary initiative of courses and co-curricular programming tied to the "vital necessity of water and the challenges we face here in Michigan and around the globe."

Felix Ngassa, professor of chemistry and chair of University Academic Senate, further solidified the student-faculty relationship within his remarks. He offered practical advice about meeting professors, keeping up with classwork and getting involved.

"As faculty, we are invested in implementing Grand Valley’s mission of educating students to shape their lives, their professions and their societies," Ngassa said. "In order to achieve this, we play a critical role in helping you develop a sense of belonging at Grand Valley by being invested not just in your intellectual growth, but in your personal growth as well."

Michigan Rep. Kyra Bolden, '10, represented Grand Valley's 121,000 alumni. Bolden is in her first term serving the Detroit suburbs of Southfield, Lathrup Village, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms and Franklin. She said her Grand Valley experiences of joining a sorority and traveling to Japan for a study abroad program helped shaped her life and career. Bolden told students they will be well-prepared for their futures.

"The fact that you’re a student here at Grand Valley ensures you will be prepared to handle whatever gets thrown your way, especially with the help of the amazing people you have the opportunity to meet here," she said.

Students then heard from one of their peers, Eric-John Szczepaniak, Student Senate president. He urged students to "find their people" and to get engaged in campus events.

"Just as Grand Valley is meant to shape your lived experiences, you, too, will shape its story," Szczepaniak said. "You will soon join a chorus of lifelong learners dedicated to sharing their knowledge and equipped to continuously grow in the pursuit of knowledge."